By Ishtar Babilu Dingir
I first entered the world of alternative health therapies when I was a journalist on the Sunday Times, in the early Nineties. I quickly learned then how difficult it was to get a new therapy, which was having good results, accepted. In those days, my editor would insist that the paper couldn’t publish anything about a new therapy unless I found an orthodox doctor to comment on it favourably, or at least, neutrally. I’m sure you can imagine how difficult that was at first, until I gradually discovered which doctors were open to alternative health therapies and were more likely to give a fair comment.
Since then, the world of alternative or complementary therapies has taken off exponentially, but still there are the same battle lines drawn, so it seems, between orthodox medicine and us. And we always seem to be so much on the defensive, trying to justify using something that people have benefitted from in the East for thousands of years, but for which no or too little adequate testing has been performed to satisfy the requirements of orthodoxy.
The problem is so-called ‘evidence-based medicine’. By law, any new healing method or remedy has to meet stringent and replicable requirements in a laboratory to be agreed to have passed muster and thus be licensed by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in the US, or the Medical Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK. This is called ‘evidence-based medicine’.
It took me a while to realise that the FDA and the MHRA were staffed, at their high levels, by people who were trained in orthodox medicine and who were former employees of Big Pharma. In fact, there seems to be a revolving door between healthcare regulation in the West and Big Pharma and Big Chem.
Not only that, but these governmental agencies seem to employ what they would probably term ‘lobbyists’ (although we would call them trolls!) on social media, like Twitter and Facebook. And these trolls use outright bullying tactics towards alternative therapists or those promoting articles about holistic therapies.
And so I was forced, in the end, to come to the view that medical healthcare regulation is largely all about bullying by those with vested interests against the small practitioner who doesn’t have the money to jump through all their impossible hoops of ‘evidence-based medicine’ nor the resources to fight back.
For example, in our book The Therapy Book, (available for Kindle on Amazon) we have full and comprehensive information on hundreds of really useful alternative therapies. But often in the section about how safe and effective they are, we have to put: “no scientific evidence has been found to determine its efficacy.” Anecdotal evidence over thousands of years in some cases, has shown that they do work, but we’re not allowed to say so.
At the same time, anecdotal evidence is showing that orthodox medicine – largely in the form of pharmaceutical drugs – is making people sicker and sicker. And often, ironically, it’s the very game that they’ve rigged in their favour – evidence-based medicine – which is causing the problem, because commercial imperatives are outweighing careful analysis and decisions with regard to safety and efficacy of a drug.
There is no point in having ‘evidence-based-medicine’ if you’re going to ignore the evidence which is inconvenient, which is what orthodox medicine is doing.
Of course, this is what happens when you reduce the health of the human being to a business case on an Excel spreadsheet. And it just goes to show that if you’re going to let Big Pharma, Big Chem and Big Insurance look after your healthcare, it’s tantamount to letting the fox loose in the hen house.
In a recent TED talk, Ben Goldacre, a physician and Guardian journalist, came out as a whistleblower to expose what he’s calling “the cancer at the core of evidence-based medicine”. According to Ben, at least hundreds of thousands of people have died through the prescription of drugs for which the negative results from evidence-based testing had been suppressed. This is really a terrible scandal … research misconduct at the very least…but you don’t hear about it the mainstream press.
Here is an extract from Ben’s talk, where he goes into some detail about this problem. (I’ve posted a link to the talk at the end).
“People will do lots and lots and lots of different studies, and the occasions when it works they will publish, and the ones where it doesn’t work they won’t.
“Their first recommendation of how to fix this problem – because it is a problem, because it sends us all down blind alleys – is to make it easier to publish negative results in science, and to change the incentives so that scientists are encouraged to post more of their negative results in public.
“But it doesn’t just happen in the very dry world of preclinical basic science cancer research….
“In 1980, some researchers did a study on a drug called lorcainide, and this was an anti-arrhythmic drug, a drug that suppresses abnormal heart rhythms, and the idea was, after people have had a heart attack, they’re quite likely to have abnormal heart rhythms, so if we give them a drug that suppresses abnormal heart rhythms, this will increase the chances of them surviving.
“Early on its development, they did a very small trial, just under a hundred patients. Fifty patients got lorcainide, and of those patients, 10 died. Another 50 patients got a dummy placebo sugar pill with no active ingredient, and only one of them died. So they rightly regarded this drug as a failure, and its commercial development was stopped, and because its commercial development was stopped, this trial was never published.
“Unfortunately, over the course of the next five, ten years, other companies had the same idea about drugs that would prevent arrhythmias in people who have had heart attacks. These drugs were brought to market. They were prescribed very widely because heart attacks are a very common thing, and it took so long for us to find out that these drugs also caused an increased rate of death that before we detected that safety signal, over 100,000 people died unnecessarily in America from the prescription of anti-arrhythmic drugs…
“…The development of lorcainide was abandoned [originally] for commercial reasons, and this study was never published; it’s now a good example of publication bias. That’s the technical term for the phenomenon where unflattering data gets lost, gets unpublished, is left missing in action, and they say the results described here “might have provided an early warning of trouble ahead.”
This is just one example. If you listen to the rest of Ben’s 15 minute talk (below) you’ll hear that this problem of publication bias is actually systemic and endemic in orthodox medicine. He says that about half of all trials, on average, go ‘missing in action’, and that positive findings are around twice as likely to be published as negative findings.
This would certainly explain why generally, as a population, we seem to be getting sicker and sicker … because, as Ben says, as a doctor…”This is a disaster. We cannot know the true effects of the medicines that we prescribe if we do not have access to all of the information.”
So next time that you’re harassed on Twitter or Facebook about your therapy not having been properly tested via evidence-based trials, you might like to show them this article! I do hope it helps!
The Therapy Book
From aromatherapy to zero balancing and everything in between
For comprehensive information on more than 200 holistic health therapies in an easily understandable format, you can’t do better than The Therapy Book for Kindle, available here.
This e-book is easily searchable, uses plain language and is organised into easy-to-digest bite-sized chunks, so you will soon know …
what each therapy is
how each therapy works
what each therapy can be used for
whether the therapy is effective
whether there are any known side effects
To find out more, just click on the book below.
What Doctors Don’t Know About The Drugs They Prescribe – a TED talk by physician and journalist Ben Goldacre.
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